DEMOLITION DERBY: The Leeds United Perspective

Let’s make this clear from the off, this is not a match report. There are plenty of them flying around for you to read should you wish. This is an analysis of where Leeds United are right now and the problems they face.

Firstly, let us get rid of a couple of excuses:
- “the pitch was bobbly” – It’s winter, it’s rained a lot. This is Hillsborough, one of the finest stadiums in the country. Leeds will play on a lot worse surfaces in the Championship.

- “Matt Smith should not have been sent off” – Intentional or not, he hit a player with his elbow/shoulder, while not attempting to play the ball, directly in front of a top class referee. McDermott has stated that he plans to appeal the red card. Good luck with that one Brian.

Coming into the Barnsley game on 21stChampionship. Since then, they have secured 2 draws (that should have been wins), followed by 4 losses.

Following Leeds’ loss to Blackburn Rovers, Brian McDermott asked the board to invest. What followed was a shock 2-0 loss to League 2 Rochdale. The board did invest in Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe. The result? A 6-0 loss against Sheffield Wednesday.

I upload Brian McDermott’s post match audio interviews to Soundcloud following most games. Normally, 200-400 people listen. Against Sheffield Wednesday, I’ve had 3,000 listens. You can hear it here:

The reason for that volume of listeners is clear. It was Leeds United's biggest margin of defeat since 1959.

Brian McDermott has called all the players in on Sunday to the Leeds United training ground at Thorp Arch to openly discuss what went wrong.

Leeds United have to stick by their manager. Brian McDermott is a proven manager, but he himself has to accept that he has made mistakes. He stated that Leeds have to go back to basics. That’s interesting. That is a phrase that many Chairmen say upon appointing a new manager. He has also said that he will speak to his players asking “what is wrong?”

McDermott is the manager. He should know.

Let’s not make comparisons. What happened at Hillsborough is not at all similar to the 6-0 shellacking that West Ham recently endured in the Capital One Cup courtesy of Manchester City. The disparity between those 2 squads is clear to see. Leeds United’s squad is clearly stronger than that of Sheffield Wednesday. That said, let me make it perfectly clear, that Sheffield Wednesday were by far the better team - full of vision, passion, creation and 100% deserving of the result. They do not need a new manager. They already have one in caretaker manager Stuart Gray. I hope he becomes the permanent manager. He deserves it.
He’s earned it.

The question is, where do Leeds United go from here?

Here’s a few thoughts:

     - 3 at the back is not working
     - Lee Peltier is not, and never will be a Wing Back
     - Sam Byram has to be played. He has vision and ability
     - Leeds loaned out Aidy White to Sheffield United because he was neither a left sided defender or a midfielder. The same can be said of Danny Pugh,         yet he gets played  
     - Rudy Austin is not Captain material. Jonny Howson was. He made tackles and created and scored goals. Austin does not.
     - KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid, let’s try 4-4-2

From watching Leeds United, their recent problems seem to stem around the players. They don’t appear to understand what their individual jobs are – ‘Who do I mark?’ ‘When do I go forward, when do I stay back?’ The tactics deployed by McDermott have resulted in opposition players driving unchallenged through the Leeds midfield. The result is Tom Lees, Jason Pearce and Marius Zaliukas bravely trying their best to thwart wave after wave of attack from marauding midfielders and strikers, as if they were trying to recreate a scene from the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

A sure sign of chaos is when players decide they’ve had enough, throw tactics out of the window and go feral. Remember when John Terry went banzai in the 2012 World Cup match against Germany and went on a (failed) one man mission to beat Germany? This happened at Hillsborough. Early in the second half, Jason Pearce (not for the first time) got mad, in a Charles Bronson Death Wish kind of way. A one man wrecking ball determined to smash everything – the ball, the opposition, himself. At 5-0 he was suffering excruciating cramp. The game was lost. Wise man (not Dennis) says ‘Go down, get treatment.’ He hobbled on, he kept fighting. And then it was 6-0. 2012/13 poster boy Sam Byram also got the red mist. Sprinting for a ball from one side of the field to the other, he chased a pointless ball, but it did allow him the opportunity to send keeper Chris Kirkland into a spiralling heap.

But let’s be positive. Yes lets! All is not lost! The players are fighting. They want to win. This is not a team of players that have given up. Leeds United are playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. If you look at the current trend – Rochdale score 2, Sheffield Wednesday score 6, then the next game against high flying Leicester could be a cricket score. But I don’t think it will be. Leeds’ next game is at Elland Road. The Leeds United fans are in good voice and are on the side of the players. One of my favourite moments of the game at Hillsborough came in the 71stLeeds their only shot on target. The Leeds fans whooped and cheered in celebration.

Here’s hoping for a change in fortunes. Keep Fighting!

What were your thoughts on the game? What are your predictions for the Leicester match?

Let us know in the comments!

I discussed this match on the latest Man On The Post podcast – the game is covered at 36 minutes. You can download the podcast here or on iTunes or play the audio automatically here

Colin Sowerby is a regular host on the free weekly football podcast Man On The Post.


  1. Great article, totally agree with what you said. When I was at the Barnsley game I noticed the midfield just let runners go straight past them leaving the defence over worked. It made me really like how zaliukas plays, not backing out of any challenge and winning most things in the air, he's definitely one to keep, even if he had a poor game vs Wednesday. Would love to see byram back but is he fit? I don't think he has been for the last 6 to 9 months.

    BMcD has done a good job but needs to rotate the squad a bit better as our best players like Austin and Ross are getting burnt out. A few new players would add some fresh faces to the squad and maybe get rid of some players we don't need anymore.

    As you said, let's stay positive. We are still close to the play offs. We are building a good squad slowly but surely and if we don't go up this season I think it will be in the next couple of seasons.

    Wrote by colin render, follow me on twitter @colin_render

  2. Thanks for your comment Colin, I will mention this on the next Man On The Post podcast (scheduled to be released Tuesday 21st January). You make a really interesting point about new faces. Hey, Leeds fans, what new faces would you like to see? I still like Luciano's face :)


Post a Comment